It’s no secret that Salt Lake City mountains are home to some of the best, most accessible rock climbing routes in the United States, and possibly the world. You can find yourself surrounded by endless boulders, exhausting sport routes, and towering big walls, just 20 minutes from town. Can the same be said about Park City, well the answer is pretty simple, not really.
People that live in Salt Lake City believe that Park City is just another suburb of Salt Lake. The locals that live in Park City know that’s simply not true. And so it goes, the endless debate (and rivalry) on which town/city is better to live in. Either Park City, where the mountains are at your fingertips because you live in the mountains, or Salt Lake City that sits right at the foot of the beautiful Wasatch Front Mountains. And through this series of posts, I hope to help those that are looking to move out west to Utah, on which place they will find the best outdoor adventures. Spoiler alert, no matter which place you choose, I can all but guarantee you won’t regret it! I moved out to Utah in 2018, first lived in downtown Salt Lake City, then moved up to Park City, where I have been ever since.
For the purpose of this debate, I am associating Big Cottonwood Canyon, Little Cottonwood Canyon, and Millcreek Canyon as a part of Salt Lake City (since everyone else does).
Salt Lake City
Of things to write about, finding the best rock climbing around Salt Lake City might be one of the easiest topics ever. Simply put, the climbing, both outside, and in gyms, are seemingly endless! There are thousands of trad, sport, top rope routes and boulders in the Wasatch Mountains. Climbing can be found as close to town in City Creek, the University, and Emigration Canyon. And of course all the way up in Millcreek, Big Cottonwood, Ferguson, and Little Cottonwood Canyons.
Big Cottonwood Canyon, where tons of sport routes can be found, is primarily on quartzite, which tends to be slippery and hard; however, the quartzite also offers numerous holds jutting out at all angles. Some of the top areas are the Storm Mountain, home to the classic 3 pitch Outside Corner and Layback Crack. For the beginner climber, there are the short top-rope-able routes at Dogwood Crag. And for those looking to get into the upper alpine, there are the dozens of routes at the Brighton area, where you can find epic challenging boulders like Sherpa Hop and intermediate trad and sport routes like Rusty Blade. Most of my experience up here is in the S-Curves where the south facing sport routes like Geronimo and Melting Point are epic routes.
Little Cottonwood Canyon where endless granite trad, sport, bouldering, and ice climbing are all well-represented here. Most of the climbs are on the sunnier, north side of the canyon, but shade may be found for those hot summer days. Admittedly, I don’t have much experience climbing up in LCC, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate how incredible the opportunities are here, especially those looking for boulders. There are over 900 boulders in this canyon from V0 to V12+. V4 Problems like Twisted and Surfboard are nearly world famous, and a must for all climbers passing through the area.
Beyond the endless outdoor climbing opportunities, there are 5 world class climbing gyms in the Salt Lake City area. The top gyms are The Front & Momentum which each have two gyms in the valley. With an additional bouldering gym called the Boulder Project. All of which, are massive buildings with every option to top rope, lead climb, boulder, and train on various features and gyms. If you’re looking to get fit to send your project outside, these gyms are the perfect place to get ready and also have a blast.
To say there are zero rock climbing opportunities in Park City would not be true, but it is very close to zero places to climb. Sure there are some 100 conglomerate routes over in Echo Canyon, near Coalville, but that is some 30 minutes away. With that distance, you might as well just drive down to the Cottonwoods and do some real climbing. Other than that, for routes in the area, you’ll have to do some bushwacking and hiking to access the chossy rock that’s up at the ski resorts, but of what I’ve found, it really isn’t worth it. Sure, there are some secret walls that have been bolted in Pinebrook, with about 5 routes on them, but other than that, the options are slim to none. And ever since 2019, there hasn’t been a rock climbing gym in town, so gym climbing isn’t even an option anymore. On the plus side, there is an artificial outdoor boulder at the Park City MARC, so that might hold some over, but it isn’t much.
Winner Is: It is undeniable, Salt Lake City’s canyons have far superior rock climbing than Park City. It isn’t even worth debating.
Hi there, my name is Zachary Kenney and I’m an adventure filmmaker & photographer. My passion is to tell stories that will hopefully motivate you to go live a more adventurous life. Whether that is to experience the view from the summit of a mountain, or wandering through a new town on a road trip. Currently based out of Park City, UT.